Meet mama pilea. I’ve had her for quite a while now and from looking like a UFO a few months ago (photo below), my plant has blossomed into a full and magnificent beauty. I wanted to share some care tips and tricks today as I get quite a few questions regarding how to keep this plant looking its best.
LIGHT: Fairly bright, indirect light
The first thing to consider is location, which can really have quite an impact on the shape and growth of pileas. I’ve got a few plantlets dotted around my apartment so have been testing out growing habits in different conditions. The best position for me has been around 1 metre from my west facing window.
In somewhere quite dark, the stems will stretch out and distort the shape so that growth is quite sparse. Placed somewhere too bright and the leaves have a tendency to mark and crisp at the edges. Saying that, if your plant has acclimatised to a brighter environment I have found they can handle quite a bit of sun (contrary to common advice); my sisters plant grows well in her conservatory most of the year! My mother plant lives approximately one metre away from my west facing window on my coffee table (see below) which is the ideal spot in my apartment; I’ve found it enjoys a few hours of afternoon brightness.
To keep plant growth balanced, rotate your plant every few days/weeks or else things will start to stretch a bit, especially in darker environments! If that’s the style you like then let your pilea go crazy, but to keep the rounded ‘globe’ form, I (obsessively) turn mine every 5 days or so… it’s on my circular coffee table and in that way, I like the shape to stay uniform from a plant styling perspective. It’s where I sit + have my coffee any way so it’s not too much trouble to remember… it’s become like a little plant ritual! My coffee table plants are quite well looked after for this reason!
WATERING: Go easy; overwatering is a no-no
Watering is the main thing to get right with these plants as they can really dislike having ‘wet feet’ (as I’m sure most of us can relate!) The main issue people have with pilea is drooping stems, which is often a result of the compost getting over saturated. Overwatering is definitely the main cause of pilea problems, and I try to wait almost until the plants show you that they need water by looking a bit wilted. Watering too often will cause more problems than not watering enough, and very dry plants do bounce back pretty well. I wait until the top inch or so of potting mix has dried out before watering from the top. If you are overwatering you might notice some yellowing leaves, but this can also correlate with a drop in temperatures too. If in doubt don’t water. Oh, and always use a pot with a drainage hole!
For smaller plants, the easiest way to give them a drink is on a watering plate. I take them all to the kitchen table and fill my large drip tray with tepid water, allowing the plants to sit there for approximately 30mins. I do this about once every 7-10 days this time of year. As with the larger plants, wait until they have started to dry out before watering again. Younger plants have much weaker stems so will flop about if they are unhappy!
FERTILISING + POTTING MIX
Once you get the location and watering right, there are a few other things take into consideration to keep your pilea healthy and growing well. During the Spring and Summer I fertilise twice a month with a balanced liquid houseplant fertiliser. Every month, I give my plants a shower if they are looking dusty, though compared to other foliage plants, these don’t collect as much dust as some in my experience!
In terms of potting mix, I like to use a fairly free draining option to keep the roots from getting soggy; I make up a concoction of houseplant compost, orchid bark, horticultural grit + some perlite.
It’s worth noting that winter can be a bit of a struggle to keep things looking great; pilea really do not like being in a draught, or near a radiator! A sudden drop in temperature can cause brown spots on the leaves and the edges too, so be prepared to move them if they usually live on a windowsill that might get cool at night over the chillier months. Even healthy plants can experience some yellowing and leaf drop of the lower leaves, so don’t be alarmed if this happens.
A NOTE ON PLANTLET PROPAGATION
As you’ll know if you have had a pilea peperomioides for a while, it’s not too long before baby plants start popping up from the soil and when they get multiplying, can be quite prolific! I think this one has so far made 8 babies, and there are currently 4 in the soil in the main plant pot. In the same way as with plants such as spider plants (chlorophytum), the main way to encourage plantlet growth is to keep the plant relatively pot-bound. This triggers the plant to start producing offsets as a survival mechanism. So don’t re-pot too often if you want to get growing your pilea collection! Cut the plantlet from the main plant with a clean blade and leave to callous over for a few days before planting, if there are roots present you could pot straight away. I prefer to bring my baby plants along a bit in water first, but that’s personal preference. In water, leave to root for a few weeks before planting.
I’ve got a blogpost that goes into pilea propagation in more detail if you want to learn more – I’ve linked it here!
Hope this has been helpful for those asking for a post about pileas, if there’s anything you’d like me to write about, just send me a message.
Thanks for reading,